Annecy is a hidden gem, postcard perfect and set by a perfectly clear and very blue lake, with a backdrop of snowy mountains. It's built around a 14th-century château, the medieval town centre and several ancient Neolithic villages that are now part of the town - which is bisected by small streams, canals and the river Thiou, earning Annecy its nickname of the ‘Venice of Savoie'.
Perfectly placed mid-river is the Palais de l'Ile, now the Annecy Centre of Architecture and Cultural Heritage, well worth a visit. So too are the Basilica of the Visitation and the Gardens of Europe, the latter set charmingly by the lake. The lake is the centre of all life here - it's said to be one of the purest in Europe and at 24° perfect for a dip. Annecy is a good base for adventure holidays, sitting as it does in the north of the French Alps. It's perfect for all manner of snow sports, and in the summer, for paragliding or hang gliding over some stunning landscapes.
Having all these activities on offer is a blessing for the food here is typical hard-to-resist Savoie cuisine, with plenty of raclette and tartiflette and delicious local cheese, including Reblochon and Tome des Bauges. Unsurprisingly there's an emphasis on fish too, spankingly fresh trout in particular.
Food forms a big part of the Retour des Alpages festival, held here every October to mark the descent of the pasture animals down to the valleys for the winter. What the cows make of the fireworks and the sounds of carnival in the old town as part of the celebrations to mark their return is anyone's guess. It's not all pastoral alpine pleasures though - Annecy is also where the International Animated Film Festival is held, with 200 or so films competing each June for various awards.